Don't Miss vol. 34.2 Available Now!


december spotlight: writer — allen price

Allen M. Price was a finalist for the 2024 Kenyon Review Developmental Editing Fellowship and Witness magazine’s 2024 and Black Warrior Review’s 2023 Nonfiction Contest. He won Solstice Literary Magazine’s 2023 Michael Steinberg Nonfiction Prize (chosen by Grace Talusan). He also won Blue Earth Review‘s 2022 Flash Creative Nonfiction Contest and Columbia Journal’s 2021 Nonfiction Winter Contest (chosen by Pamela Sneed). A three time Pushcart Prize and two time Best American Essays nominee, his work appears or is forthcoming in Roxanne Gay’s The Audacity, The Missouri Review, Blue Mesa Review, African Voices, North American Review, The Masters Review, and many others. He has an MA from Emerson College. You can find his essay, “One Blood,” in Vol. 34.2 of december.

december Q&A

december: Tell us a bit about your work in essaydecember: where did it come from? What does it mean to you? 

Allen: I had just finished reading His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice, a 2022 biography written by Washington Post journalists Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa. It struck me how similar my and George Floyd’s lives were; from our age, to our upbringing, to our struggle with drugs and racism, and it bothered me that I was alive and he was dead. It really had a profound impact on me. I felt the need to write this and show there was no difference between us. I just happened to be blessed to still be on earth.

december: What’s a standout moment you remember from the process of working on it? A stroke of inspiration, a generative brainstorm, a revision challenge, an a-ha moment, a time you shared it with a reader who loved it? Give us a window into the way this piece came to life.  

Allen: I remember crying when I read George Floyd used drugs to mask the pain of racism, that he built his thin body into a muscular one to fit into white American society, and after he did, they looked at him like a scary creature when inside he was just a soft, quiet momma’s boy like me. That was the moment I knew I had to write this essay.

december: Can you tell us how literary magazines like december have been important in your literary career? What do you think the importance of the lit mag is to literary culture at large?  

Allen: The most important part of publishing for me is getting the purpose of my work out to people. Without literary magazines, I know that would not have happened. Literary magazines are indispensable to reach new readers. The work literary journals publish is vital to our country, to our world, to continue to bring justice and happiness. We’re living in very difficult times, most the world has ever seen, and the work I’ve read in different journals brings words to life to give meaning to our lives. Sort of the same way the Dead Sea Scrolls did for many thousands of years ago. Literary magazines give people reason to think and believe in a better future.

december: What are you working on now?  

Allen: I don’t write fiction but something internally has pushed me to write a dystopian historical novel about Rhode Island’s most famous slave, Newport Gardner. His African name was Occramer Marycoo. He was America’s first Black published music composer. He bought his freedom, and when he felt he couldn’t make it in America he returned to his home country of Liberia at eighty years old — only to die a short while after from a disease he contracted on the sail over. I’ve written about him in my published essays. It came to me after reading and watching Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I had avoided the book because it scared me, but given where our country is today, I felt compelled.

december: What’s something else you love to do or are passionate about outside of writing?  

Allen: I love nature and go for three hour walks in the woods three times a week. It’s often where my inspiration comes from. 

december: Where can people find out more about you?

Instagram: @allenmprice 

featured content: hunter hodkinson & samantha edmonds

“Lake Okeechobee” by Samantha Edmonds

hunter hodkinson


I never dug a hole 
to China. 

As a child the whole idea 
seemed impossible.

How could a boy
of eight or nine 
use his grandma’s
gardening shovel 
to dig a hole 
big enough for
us both?

I love it here
she’d say,
this is my home. 

if she wasn’t going
I sure as hell wasn’t. 

I couldn’t even say 
in Chinese,
let alone 
Chicken nugget 
Happy Meal please!

My exposure 
to Asian culture 
was limited to 
The Karate Kid 
remake with Jaden Smith,
and the one time Dad
forced me to watch 
Big Trouble In Little China
with him. 

Escape was out 
of the question.

Dig a hole somewhere else,
Grandma said. 

Great idea! 
Digging straight down 
seemed most logical. 
I grabbed the 
mildew speckled globe 
from the basement and put 
my fingers on opposite sides. 


That's the place 
with kangaroos!
They speak English
there, I think. 

I snatched the green-handled
shovel from grandma’s
dirt-dappled fingers
and started an excavation site
behind the garage.

I worked tirelessly 
beneath the sweltering 
summer day
until the streetlights 
came on. 

I wiped the sweat 
from my forehead 
and was appalled to find
the hole was barely big enough 
to fit both feet inside!

Escape really was out of the question.

The hole slowly vanished
filling with orange clay water,
packed solid with lawnmower shrapnel
and the evening out of earth. 

Now only a slight divot remains
beneath the fire pit Mom installed. 

Hundreds of beer bottle caps 
and thousands of cigarettes have been 
stamped out around the crater,
like little volcanic eruptions 
burying my brief
childish dream
beneath tobacco embers. 

Samantha Edmonds is a writer and artist. She is the author of the chapbooks Pretty to Think So (Selcouth Station Press, 2019) and The Space Poet (Split/Lip Press, 2020). Her fiction and nonfiction appears in The New York Times, Gay Magazine, Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Rumpus, among others. A PhD student in creative writing at the University of Missouri, she currently lives in Columbia. Visit her online at Instagram: @sam_edmonds122 X(Twitter): @sam_edmonds122

Hunter Hopkinson lives in Brooklyn, where he is a barista and an intern at Brooklyn Poets. He moved to New York from a small Appalachian town in Ohio when he was 18 years old. Find him on Instagram @hunterhodkinson

national poetry series

december is thrilled to announce…

Monday, April 15

Meet & Greet and Readings, Co-hosted with december

1-3 pm, Hearth & Soul (9640 Clayton Rd., 63124)

This is a free event. No RSVP needed.

Hearth & Soul will host Trethewey, Cunningham, Smith, Perry, and Hou for a writers salon where the authors will read from their work and sign books. Copies of the featured writers’ recent and well-known works will be available for sale; for pre-orders, email

Panel: Keeping Language Alive

6 pm, Haertter Hall

$5 for students, $20 for adults

Join us for a conversation about keeping language alive — beyond the shorthand of text, X (formerly Twitter), AI, and email. Moderated by Imani Perry and featuring panelists Natasha Trethewey, Michael Cunningham, Maggie Smith, and current National Student Poet Shangri-La Hou. Ticket sales benefit the National Poetry Series. Click here to purchase individual tickets; for group ticket sales, email

*Everyone is welcome and wanted — if ticket prices are prohibitive for you, please contact to access complimentary tickets.*

Dinner & Auction

7:30-9:30 pm, Private Dining Room

Email for tickets (only 30 left!)

An intimate dinner with Trethewey, Cunningham, Smith, Perry, regional poets, and Daniel Halpern, founder and director of the National Poetry Series and an executive editor at Knopf, Penguin Random House. Attendees can purchase full tables of nine seats for $5,000 or single seats for $500; a participating author will occupy the 10th seat at every table. Ticket sales benefit NPS.

Guests will have premiere access to a curated auction of exclusive items — see below. The auction is online and bidding is underway. The auction will close at the dinner on April 15. Auction proceeds benefit NPS.

Also featuring . . . Online Auction!

Margaret Atwood, Terrance Hayes, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Padma Lakshmi, Ann Patchett, and Amy Tan have donated rare literary collectibles for auction to support NPS’s commitment to discovering and publishing new poets. All auction proceeds benefit NPS. In addition, NYC-based restaurants Gramercy Tavern (Danny Meyer ’76) and Balthazar have also donated items to support the mission of NPS. Click here to bid today! The auction will close on April 15.

Featured Authors:

Michael Cunningham is a New York Times bestselling author and winner of both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize (The Hours). He is the recipient of a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His newest novel, Day, was released in November ’23. 

Imani Perry, Professor in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and in African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is a New York Times bestselling author and the 2022 National Book Award winner for her book South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation.

Maggie Smith is a New York Times bestselling author and poet (Good Bones, Keep Moving, You Could Make This Place Beautiful, etc.). A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and awards from the Ohio Arts Council, the Academy of American Poets.

Natasha Trethewey, 19th Poet Laureate of the United States, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and New York Times bestselling author (Native Guard, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir).

With local student poet Shangri-La Hou, one of five National Student Poets for 2023 – 2024 and a member of the Class of 2024 at John Burroughs School in St. Louis.

The National Poetry Series (NPS) is a leading organization dedicated to advancing the presence, publication, and accessibility of poetry.

december spotlight: poet — natalie tombasco

Natalie Louise Tombasco is a poet from Staten Island, NY. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at Florida State University and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Southeast Review. Recent work can be found in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, Diode Poetry Journal, Copper Nickel, and The Cincinnati Review, among others. Her debut collection MILK FOR GALL has been selected as the winner of the 2023 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and will be published in Fall 2024 by Southern Indiana Review. Find out more at

Twitter & Instagram: @gnatalielouise

december: Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of these poems?

Natalie: “Out of the Fluorescent Woods” began as a riff on Dante’s Inferno’s opening lines but instead of being lost in “forest dark,” my speaker leaves behind the buzzing lights of an office hellscape for the domestic sphere and copes with a disenchanted graduate student existence. I’d say this one and “Allow Me to Construct a Time-Step” are companion poems; they sort through workplace bureaucracy, anxieties about climate destruction, and what role reality television serves for so many Americans. I engage with the Real Housewives franchise and consider it as a “guilty pleasure.” Of course, it’s partly interrogation as well since the speaker finds a distorted version of gender and class. It’s like the moment the Bravo jingle starts, I get that little dopamine hit and there’s no pressure to be “academic,” but then again, I do feel like Jane Goodall watching it — thinking what would Judith Butler say about Lisa Vanderpump?

december: What’s next for you?

Natalie: My debut poetry collection will be published in the fall with Southern Indiana Review Press!

featured content: donna vorreyer & michael noonan

“City Gate” by Michael Noonan

Donna Vorreyer spent 36 years as a public school teacher in the Chicago suburbs. She has published three full-length poetry collections and eight chapbooks, and she hosts an online reading series called “A Hundred Pitchers of Honey.” Learn more at:

Michael Noonan comes from Halifax (home of the Piece Hall), West Yorkshire, and has a background in retail, food production and office work. Has had artworks published in literary journals in the US and UK. His drawing, “The Pedestrian Centre,” and his painting, “Fun Girl,” for which he has been awarded certificates, were shown at the CityScapes and Figurative art exhibitions, run by the Light, Space and Time online art gallery in America; and can be seen on their youtube videos. He admires the great surrealist artists like Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, and Chirico; and his particular favourite is Yves Tanguy. He likes the visionary, dreamlike and subversive qualities of their work, and his own artworks have a tendency towards the offbeat and the unusual. Learn more at: Michael’s Online Gallery or find him on Twitter/X: @readyverbiage

2024 Curt Johnson Prose Awards

We are excited to announce the judges for our 2024 Curt Johnson Prose Awards. Leslie Jamison will judge nonfiction and Tlotlo Tsamaase will judge Fiction. We are beyond thrilled to have these phenomenal writers judge our 2024 contest. The Curt Johnson Prose Awards will be open March 1 – May 1. For more information check out our contest guidelines here.

Leslie Jamison is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Recovering and The Empathy Exams; the collection of essays Make It ScreamMake It Burn, a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award; and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She writes for numerous publications including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the New York Times, Harper’s, and the New York Review of Books. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn. Her most recent book, Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story, comes out on February 20, 2024.

Tlotlo Tsamaase is a Motswana author (xe/xem/xer or she/her pronouns). Tlotlo’s debut adult novel, Womb City, is out now from Erewhon Books. Tlotlo is a Caine Prize finalist. Xer novella, The Silence of the Wilting Skin, is a 2021 Lambda Literary Award finalist and was shortlisted for a 2021 Nommo Award. Tlotlo has received support from the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, and xer story “Behind Our Irises” is the joint winner of the Nommo Award for Best Short Story (2021). Tlotlo’s short fiction has appeared in Africa RisenThe Best of World SF Volume 1, Clarkesworld, Terraform, Africanfuturism Anthology, and is forthcoming in Chiral Mad 5 and other publications. Xe is a 2017 Rhysling Award nominee and a 2011 Bessie Head Short Story Award winner. Xe obtained a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Botswana and won an award for design architecture. Tsamaase is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Chapman University.

2024 Marvin Bell Memorial Poetry Prize Winners

We are thrilled to announce the winners of our 2024 poetry prize. A huge congratulations to winners and finalists, and a huge thank you to our judge, Dorianne Laux, and to everyone who entered and shared their work with us. Be on the lookout for our Spring/Summer issue, Vol. 35.1, arriving in May, where the winners and finalists will be published.

Winner — Susanna Lang

“In Your Father’s Garden”

Honorable Mention — Timothy Kelly

“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”


bones arched like flowers — Nicole Adabunu

Watching the Horses in First Snow — BJ Buckley

In The End — Anna Elkins

Mannequin — Aiden Heung

Ode to the Smallest Supernova — Elizabeth Hickson

Bullet • Points — Alison Lubar

Jellyfish Season, Chesapeake — William Orem

Ode to the Box of Red Lentil Pasta — Lexi Pelle

“Piel Canela” By Los Panchos Plays in the Janitor’s Headset — Dimitri Reyes

Late October Swim — Ellen Seusy

meet the team: isabelle stillman editor/publisher

featured content: allisa cherry & robin young

Blooming Swan Under Orange Moon by Robin Young

by Allisa Cherry

It began with the smallest things. 
Earring backs and tubes of lipstick. 
Estradiol structures. Dropped 
stitches on salvaged dresses.

Growing in size over time
to all the books I hadn’t finished 
reading and all the annotations 
I’d made in their margins.

Well-worn shirts I liked
to sleep in. All misplaced
in places I’ve since forgotten. 
I watch the sun drop

behind a row of houses
and wonder how little I worry 
about its absence. I enter my room 
and a nameless cat stretches

toward a square of light on the bed. 
My mother, this year, lost to me. 
Being a daughter, gone.
Not like a twig snapping

or a radio switched off,
but an idea as thin as fog
burning off a warming lawn.
My own daughter, I’ve lost her too.

Summer died into fall eighteen times 
and then she slipped over the bridge 
in her silver hatchback. Years ago
I dropped a whole religion. It fell

from my grasp and splintered
to matchsticks on the basement floor. 
Now I carry the bundle
and strike each one by one

to shine a path through the darkness. 
The universe is not where I left it.
I can no longer find it without retracing 
all those pinpricks left by the stars.

Allisa Cherry grew up in a rural religious community in St. John’s, AZ, near the New Mexico border. She teaches workshops for immigrants and refugees transitioning to life in the U.S. and is Associate Poetry Editor for West Trade Review. Follow her on Instagram @allisacherry

Robin Young is an artist and musician based in San Diego. A retired medical assistant turned full-time artist, she creates daily collage masterpieces, often inspired by the likes of Henri Matisse and Salvador Dali, and shares them on Instagram. Not just confined to visual arts, Robin also captivates audiences as a Patsy Cline impersonator, a role she has cherished for over ten years. Learn more about Robin or on Instagram @2SongBird

featured content: graphic poetry by tyler barton

Tyler Barton lives in Saranac Lake, NY. His work in this issue is inspired by living with housing insecurity for the past two years, with all the text in his work sourced from news stories in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise about the ongoing local and national housing crisis. 

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